If you have been looking for a way to treat or prevent flat head syndrome, you have probably come across numerous options. There are pillows, bands, helmets, exercises, and devices or techniques that may seem outdated or at least very unusual.
Minor cases of brachycephly and plagiocephaly can often be treated by some straightforward natural techniques such as repositioning and tummy time. You can find a lot of information about these techniques on this website.
However, you may have thought or heard about the idea of using baby sleep positioners. You may have seen some of these devices on sale in big box stores, but you have to be careful what you buy due to safety concerns. We’ll discuss the mechanics behind these devices and their effectiveness at treating flat head syndrome in babies in this article.
The FDA began advising parents to avoid using commercially marketed and produced sleep positioners in November of 2012, following the analysis of 13 deaths that took place related to these devices since 1997. The devices can be dangerous, because infants can become entrapped between the sleep positioner and their crib, leading to strangulation or suffocation. In particular, the warning addressed angled sleep positioners and those that use side bumpers to position the infant. As a result, many parents are now worried about the safety of sleep positioners in general. There are still some devices that are safe to use in the prevention of flat head syndrome, and we will discuss them here.
Sleep sacks and wearable blankets are a relatively new, and very popular, style of sleep positioner. Some like this one come with halo pillows incorporated into the design. The pillow is small enough and placed in a manner which prevents accidental suffocation, and the sack itself does double duty as a wearable blanket. To date, no major product safety issues or design problems have been raised, to this author’s knowledge.
Plagiocradle is another sleep positioner, although it technically falls under the banner of an orthotic device. Produced by Boston Orthotics, the plagiocradle is available by prescription only. It is made by the same group that makes the Boston Band cranial remolding orthotic for children with plagiocephaly, brachycephaly and scaphocephaly. The plagiocradle is designed to provide a flat sleeping surface with a dip for the occipital region of your baby’s skull. The device is only for infants and newborns who have been diagnosed with flat head syndrome. Some similar commercial designs exist on the commercial market, but may or may not be safe.
Another way to safely keep pressure off your infant’s head when they are sleeping that doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription is the Lifenest Sleep System, which has a type of mesh sling or cradle in the middle. Your baby sleeps on this mesh part so there is no worry of suffocation if they flip over. I used this with my son and really liked the product.
The first thing to consider when purchasing a sleep positioned for your child is safety. Look for designs that prevent or avoid suffocation hazards. Never use an inclined sleep positioned, or one that has side bumpers. Make sure that the device allows you to place your child on their back to sleep, the safest position for the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Newborns and young infants can occasionally muster the strength to roll, but may be unable to return to safe positions when they do so. Restrictive devices are dangerous, as a result.
Before purchasing any sleep positioner, consult with your child’s doctor. They may have professional experience that has led them to prefer one style of positioner over others on the market. If they don’t have a particular preference based on their professional experience, they may be able to work with you to research a device that is appropriate for your child’s needs.